Thursday, 26 January 2023

Former Split Software Agency Typeqast's New Name is Valcon

January the 26th, 2023 - One year has passed since the former Split software agency Typeqast was taken over by the Dutch company Valcon, and it is now operating under that same name.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Split software agency Typeqast began operating in the largest Dalmatian city back in 2017 as a team consisting of 11 people, and in the first year alone they grew to 45 employees. They celebrated their fifth birthday with almost 450 employees and 70 active projects, engaging in work mainly for clients across Western Europe in countries like Great Britain, as well as across the pond over in the USA.

Last year at this time, they were acquired by the Dutch company Valcon, which sought to strengthen its technological and data business segment by taking over the Split software agency Typeqast, and one year after that acquisition, the Split-based agency became a full member of the wider Valcon Group. Accordingly, it now operates under a new name - Valcon - and boasts a new visual identity.

Valcon, which is otherwise a consulting, technology and data company, came into the Croatian sphere with the acquisition of the Split software agency Typeqast and further strengthened its ambitions for significant growth across the Southeastern European region. Through Typeqast, Valcon got its hands on a company with rich experience and knowledge in software development for both Western European and American clients and entered the challenging field of IT.

The former Typeqast, and the current Valcon, have offices in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek, the Netherlands, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania, and the aforementioned rebranding applies to all of those offices. Here in Croatia, Valcon continues to operate in the same way as it once did and through the same offices.

When it comes to this country, the agency has recently been increasingly involved in low-code development and have the largest team of all working on the Mendix platform. A Data team was formed within Valcon, which grew beyond all expectations in 2022, and significant growth is expected in the future as well.

A low turnover of employees, as well as increased employment, generated the need to expand the capacity of the agency's Croatian offices, so the Split, Osijek and Zagreb offices were all expanded.

Marko Baric, one of the co-founders of Typeqast and now the director of Croatian Valcon, believes that this partnership with Valcon has given the company additional strength and that it will speed up the next stages of development going forward.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

VeeMee: Largest Web Platform for Croatian Food Sales Coming Soon

January the 24th, 2023 - Despite being founded half a decade ago, the newly updated VeeMee platform is coming soon, and it aims to be the largest web platform for the sale of Croatian food yet.

As Josipa Ban/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the VeeMee platform, founded five years ago with the aim of increasing the competitiveness of domestic agricultural production, should be upgraded by the end of this year and thus become the largest market place, or online store of food produced in all of Croatia. This was announced by Marko Kozjak, the co-founder and director of VeeMee.

VeeMee has brought together more than thousands of Croatian food and agricultural producers, as well as some from Greece and Spain, and by the end of this year, Kozjak pointed out, all of them should have a unique online place to sell their products. The director of VeeMee explained that his main motive for starting the platform, which should be the largest in Croatia when it is launched, is the chaos that currently reigns strong in the online sale of local food.

"Just as an example, if someone wants to buy kale from a Croatian producer today, it can get extremely complicated for them. When they enter kale in the search engine, they'll get thousands of pieces of information about kale, but it will be difficult to find the actual producer, that is, the person from Croatia selling it.

VeeMee was conceived as a Google of sorts, but designed for people shopping for local food. When a consumer enters, again let's say kale, into our search engine, they will be able to select a region and get an overview of kale producers from that area, so they'll be able to buy their desired food easily and directly online.

Therefore, VeeMee's goal is to centralise the web shop, to unite manufacturers in one single place, because now they're scattered around and so often invisible to consumers," explained Kozjak. Currently, he stated, they're working on upgrading the VeeMee platform, on payment solutions and organising logistics.

"We want to enable more logistics options. We want to offer a solution to the route and cost of delivery to the small producers, and to the large ones the establishment of a central warehouse through which their sales would go," he said.

In addition to all of the above, for existing users who have a producer identity (PID) on the VeeMee platform, web sales would be a bonus as the price of the packages they currently pay for wouldn't increase, revealed Kozjak, adding that by launching a digital market place, their goal is to attract new, small producers who are want to carry out more web sales.

The additional competitiveness of the VeeMee platform is precisely the price, because the premium package paid by producers on the VeeMee platform is currently 300 euros per year, and when the market place, i.e. online sales, comes to life, the price will remain the same. VeeMee's solution should also increase internet sales achieved by Croatian agricultural products, which are currently very low, and which even the state platform Trznica.hr/Market.hr, launched back during the coronavirus pandemic, failed to increase.

''By setting up the VeeMee web shop, peoples' orders will arrive via SMS, WhatsApp or email, and the manufacturer will then have to confirm it,'' explained the co-founder of VeeMee, who, together with his former partner Nikola Vid, launched the first neutral identification of origin (PID) and thus made it possible (through a QR code) for customers to digitally check the product and manufacturer, i.e. where the products are coming from and what path the food they're planning consume has taken to arrive to them.

More than 25 thousand tonnes of food is ''sitting'' behind that QR code, which allows customers to easily check their food's origin and traceability. It is precisely this concept that gives them a sense of security because they know where their food originates and what path it has taken before arriving at their doorstep. The manufacturers, through marketing campaigns run by VeeMee, get to enjoy more visibility, and suppliers get a verified manufacturer and traceability of their goods.

"Last year, our visibility on social media increased by 36 percent to 700,000 people," Kozjak pointed out. In addition, he added, their entire concept contributes to socially useful goals, such as reducing the amount of wasted food and greenhouse gas emissions.

"With smart logistics, we save more than a thousand tonnes of food annually from being discarded, and we reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by that much," said Kozjak, emphasising that they're focused on the end result in everything they do, and the same will be true with the VeeMee web shop.

The company, whose primary goal is complete data transparency when it comes to domestic agricultural production, food traceability and increased production, finances all of its new projects from its own income.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated news section.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Varazdin Company Koka First to Receive Proven Quality Label for Poultry

January the 24th, 2023 - The Varazdin company Koka has become the very first company based in the Republic of Croatia to receive the Proven quality - Croatia (Dokazana kvaliteta - Hrvatska) label for its poultry meat.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Varazdin company Koka was the first to receive and use the aforementioned label for its poultry meat, which proves that the product was really produced within the framework of Croatian fattening capacities and the animals were fed with purely domestic grain.

Upon visiting the Varazdin company Koka's factory, Minister of Agriculture Marija Vuckovic noted that the first applicants for the same label were Croatian apple producers, followed by associated producers in the vegetable sector, egg producers, and those in meat processing.

"Producers in the pork sector are still in the process of getting their products marked with this label, and I'm looking forward to the readiness of our internationally recognised producer Vindija to take over and develop the Proven quality - Croatia label for domestically produced milk," said Vuckovic.

She also stated that the label that Koka's products carry from now on is indisputable proof that everything within that product has been produced right here in the Republic of Croatia according to exact and stringent specifications, from the breeding to the laying of the eggs to one-day-old chicks and their fattening up, all the way to the raising of the birds and food that they were fed on.

"It's a ''from field to table'' concept that promotes short supply chains and offers honest information about quality food to all consumers," emphasised Vuckovic, stating that slightly less than 700 million kuna has been contracted in the area of Varazdin County from the Rural Development Programme which offers funds for different investment projects and various types of support.

For more on Croatian companies and products, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Much Loved Croatian Company Pipi Aiming for Foreign Markets in 2023

January the 19th, 2023 - The much loved Croatian company Pipi is set to spread its wings this year, with aims at conquering foreign markets and having them love the recognisable brand as much as the domestic market does.

As Mladen Miletic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian company Pipi, known for its funny marketing campaigns for its famous drinks, has entered 2023 with reinforcements in the team, Marketing, sales and project manager Zoran Kosanovic was hired as an advisor to the company's Management Board, and will be in charge of co-creating strategic and development decisions of the iconic Pipi brand.

With this appointment, Kosanovic has officially joined the Pipi team, whose main focus for this year is to expand its share here on the domestic market even more, and to enter and conquer new foreign markets.

"By bringing in Zoran Kosanovic, we made an additional step forward in terms of our company's overall development. We've been joined by an investor from our niche who will help us to further capitalise on the potential of our brand. We did a great job with the rebranding of the Croatian company Pipi, we recently sent our first container of our products off to the USA, we made numerous contacts with other markets, and the goal now is to achieve growth abroad," said Pipi CEO Luka Diel-Zadro.

Zoran Kosanovic has otherwise worked in the FMCG industry for the past twenty years, holding the position of Marketing Director of Red Bull Croatia, and therefore bringing a wealth of priceless experience to the domestic brand.

He also worked in managerial positions at the Procter&Gamble company, he is one of the global pioneers of Shopper Marketing.

"Pipi represents a challenge for me, primarily because of the potential of the brand. It has been going on for more than fifty years now, it's always been innovative, different, and because of all of that, the challenge is greater. A special strength is the community which is all for the classic #bolimepipi philosophy, and the launch of the Pipi boutique was a small revolution within the niche of beverages," stated Kosanovic of his new appointment within the Croatian company Pipi.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

Austrian Best in Parking Takes Over 50% of Croatian Company Verso Altima

January the 12th, 2023 - The Croatian company Verso Altima, which deals with IT and software, has sold a 50 percent share of its ownership to the Austrian company Best in Parking (BIP).

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, while this is now public information, the Croatian company Verso Altima's management don't want to reveal the amount of money involved. This domestic company otherwise designs, develops, implements and maintains advanced ICT solutions, and in 20 years of doing business, it has worked for more than 170 clients from 50 different countries.

As they stated, with this investment, they will try to strengthen their international presence and ensure the commercialisation of their own development solutions, especially those in the field of digital and green transition.

"The regional presence of the company, as well as twenty years of ICT experience in creating additional value for our users, was recognised by the Austrian group Best in Parking (BIP), with which we've entered into a strategic and ownership partnership," stated Mario Gerencir, the director of the Croatian company Verso Altima.

As he added, the sale of the 50 percent share was due to market needs and the search for additional specialisation within the scope of the wider digital and green transition. This is a company which, over recent years in Central and Eastern Europe, has primarily focused on the digital and green transition with an emphasis placed on Smart City solutions, and in 2021 they achieved 8.13 million euros in revenue. Gerencir is also not ready to disclose last year's business figures, instead pointing out that although 2022 was challenging, the company's planned activities were mostly realised.

The merger with the Austrian BIP, a company that is the leading owner and operator of parking and mobility infrastructure in the markets of Austria, Italy and Croatia, should give the Verso Altima a significant boost.

"By changing the ownership structure, we'll enable the rapid and high-quality development of our own resources, increase the visibility of reference products, and ensure new employment and investment in development and research. The change we initiated is aimed at the development and improvement of business, whereby we will continue to be maximally dedicated to our existing users and projects. Joint and future strategic decisions will be strongly focused on the development and expansion of production and development capacities, which represents the provision of new services for the digital and green transformation with an emphasis placed on Smart Connect solutions, and a continuous presence in network business, IoT and digital transformation," announced Gerencir.

The Austrians, on the other hand, expect that with this investment they will manage to upgrade the offer of their own digital services and thus become a pioneer of solutions for smart and climate-efficient cities. They began implementing this strategy back in 2021 by purchasing the company RAO, which offers software solutions for the management and control of public car parks and road space, as well as payment systems, solutions for access and ticket sales for national parks and nature parks, recreational facilities and marinas.

By purchasing this share of the Croatian company Verso Altima, they will further complete their offer of smart and green solutions to their own clients. "With our investment in Verso Altima, we're even going a step further. We aren't only deepening our digital competences, but also strengthening our position as an active partner of public administrations in order to increase quality of life, while acting in a way that saves resources,'' noted Johann Breiteneder, the CEO of Best in Parking.

The Croatian company Verso Altima is also developing digital and green solutions with the help of European Union (EU) money. Gerencir stated that Verso Altima was granted European co-financing last year from the Next GenerationEU recovery fund for the implementation of a project called "The Commercialisation of Innovative Citizen Engagement and Open Smart City platforms" worth 1.4 million euros in total.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Croatian Unicorns Blossom Despite Poor Business Climate, Corruption

January the 10th, 2023 - Croatian unicorns have been rightfully praised for continuing to not only grow but to truly blossom in an environment which can hardly be called encouraging. Despite an unfavourable business climate and with corruption still causing significant issues, Croatia deserves praise.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, some of the most highly regarded countries in the world have become aware over the last few decades that the well-being of every nation, as well as their security, depend on STEM achievements,'' explains Boris Podobnik, professor of economics and vice dean for research at ZŠEM, a researcher at the Center for Polymer Studies at the University of Boston, and professor of mathematics at the University of Rijeka.

That's all well and good being said, but precisely how do STEM disciplines affect equality or inequality? Podobnik was further motivated to ask this question by economist Joseph Stiglitz, who stated in his book "The Price of Profit" that a rather small portion of companies actually control entire economic sectors and contribute to the dizzying growth of inequality.

"Although it's clear that today it's STEM fields that drive innovation in the economy and in social relations, we aren't yet fully aware of the extent to which STEM education quantitatively contributes to economic inequality and how STEM and non-STEM companies behave during an economic crisis or in a pandemic,'' points out Podobnik, who together with his colleagues - Marina Dabic, Dorian Wild and Tiziana Di Matteo - investigated the impact of STEM on the growth of wealth at the level of individuals and companies.

They also analysed the operations of STEM companies during the global coronavirus pandemic in a scientific paper entitled: "The impact of STEM on the growth of wealth at different levels, from individuals to companies and countries: The operations of STEM companies during the pandemic in different markets".

"At the company level, we've shown that inequality in STEM companies is greater than it is in non-STEM companies, and this is also true for individuals," Podobnik revealed when discussing the results of the research.

What does the Forbes list say?

They came to their results by analysing companies included in the American S&P 500 and the German and French DAX and CAC40. As for individuals, they analysed the Forbes list of the richest people in the world.

That list, Podobnik says, that is, those included in it, reveals yet another rather interesting fact. It turns out that in Data Science, formal education no longer plays an important role, as evidenced by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who went to STEM college, but didn't finish it. Despite this, researchers still treated them as STEM graduates.

"Today, if you solve a big problem in data science, and you don't have a formal education, you'll be accepted not only in every American company, but you'll also be easily appointed as a lecturer at elite faculties. This is valid only in Data Science, not in physics or economics, and it's still a warning and a threat to the education system," points out Podobnik.

The analysis of STEM companies' operations during the coronavirus pandemic also showcases some very interesting results. It proves that American companies from the STEM field, which are included in the S&P 500, have shown better results than non-STEM companies both in times of expansion and during the pandemic.

We can explain this, Podobnik points out, by the fact that STEM companies have better chances in the long run because it is precisely innovations that push the economy forward. "And we naturally associate innovation more with STEM," he adds. However, such results haven't been shown by the analysed European companies. For example, the analysis shows that STEM companies included in the German DAX index in the period of economic expansion don't show better results than non-STEM companies.

"This is probably because America is an attractor for real STEM high-tech companies, while Europe isn't. Can you think of any large European company that is at the level of Google, Tesla, Microsoft, Intel, Netflix, or Amazon?'' asks Podobnik. Indeed, Europe today doesn't have a single technology company that can compete with any one of those from the USA, or even with those based in China. This is the case, explains the professor, because America has about twenty times more venture capital per capita than there is in the whole of the EU. In addition, the USA has stronger universities, so it shouldn't really be surprising that all great innovations come from there.

"Europe prefers mediocrity a little bit too much, and here the average is looked at too much, there's therefore no room for rare events that give way to great technological innovations in the same way that has been done in companies that we've all heard of by now. There are very few highly innovative companies based in the EU, and that's why there is little difference between STEM and non-STEM companies here," points out Podobnik.

Croatian unicorns are therefore quite miraculous indeed...

In such an environment, Croatian unicorns and some of what has been happening over more recent years with numerous domestic companies is actually a real miracle, Podobnik notes, because despite the bad business environment, high levels of corruption and a generall poor attitude towards entrepreneurship, there are two wildly successful Croatian unicorns. "For comparison, Denmark and Italy don't have a single one," he notes.

So, even though research shows that STEM contributes to the growth of inequality, the fact remains that technological development, which is mostly based on STEM disciplines, is unstoppable anyway. The pursuit of equality will not stop this development, and the fruits will be reaped by those who do decide to invest in STEM innovations.

"Society must be the one to deal with equality, it just needs to have the right measure to do so. Too much equality leaves no room for the innovation of those who actually are geniuses. However, what is ideal or optimal inequality remains a big unknown," says Podobnik, noting that complete equality of everything is characteristic of communism, a model that proved to be astonishingly economically ineffective. On the completely different side is absolute libertarianism, which does not need the state at all - two wings on the same bird.

"Both extremes are bad ideas, meaning that the optimum lies somewhere in between the two. But the question of all questions is where that optimum is. Society, therefore, takes from the more successful and gives to the less successful, but the question is how much is optimal, that is, how much can you take from the more successful, without destroying the space for innovation of the most successful and most ingenious?'' Professor Podobnik warns.

Here in Europe, on the other hand, he believes, we definitely haven't been able to find that optimum. "Europe has gone too far in the direction of socialism, where the emphasis is placed only on equality and on trying to achieve a good life for everyone. European societies are too standardised, and the more restrictions there are, the less space there is for the degrees of freedom that are essential for new technological innovations to come about.

Europe has clearly not found the right balance between taking care of the majority of people and taking care of those who are indeed the most inventive, whose inventions would keep Europe in the world as a place of wealth and technological progress. Today, we all know that due to the policy of excessive taxes and regulations, the EU is rapidly falling behind America and China. So, did we need the war in Ukraine to decide to produce our own chips? Taiwan can do it, but the EU can't!? That's pretty poor," he warns.

Europe, and therefore Croatia, remains the guardian of old, outdated industries

And while Europe, the custodian of old and heavy industry, is lagging behind thanks to its policies, China, much like America, has long understood what will be the key to economic growth and development. China, points out Podobnik, has targeted students in STEM fields more and more over recent decades.

"Back in 2013, 40 percent of students in China graduated with a STEM degree, twice as many as in the US. This is probably one of the main reasons why China was able to surpass the US in terms of GDP measured by purchasing power parity some five years ago,'' Podobnik explained.

For more, make sure to check out our business section.

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group Aiming Very High for 2023

January the 5th, 2023 - The Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group has some very ambitious plans for this year, and following a rather complicated procedure which is now finally completed, railway wagon production could see the group catapulted to new heights at no less than the EU level.

As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, a complex process involving the restructuring and recapitalisation within the Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group was finally carried out in 2022, which enabled the strategic partner, the Czech company DD Acquisition, to acquire majority ownership. At the very end of that same year, it was announced that another decision had taken place, and one which has aims for this year set very high indeed.

The construction of more brand new plants

According to information on the Zagreb Stock Exchange, CERP signed an agreement on behalf of country with the Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group (Special vehicles) on the entry of claims into the company's share capital in the amount of 8.97 million kuna, thereby acquiring five percent of the shares, all based on the restructuring programme and the decision made by the Croatian Government back on February the 3rd, 2022.

The Special vehicles company is part of the wider Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group, and is also its "backbone", but exactly which claims are involved, when and how they arose, hasn't been stated in the announcement, nor has the government's actual decision, since it is marked as confidential.

The state already included the claims that the banks had from the companies which make up the Djuro Djakovic Group during earlier assemblies, after which DD Acquisition carried out its recapitalisation by investing a massive 231 million kuna. The Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group otherwise held a 99.9% stake in Special Vehicles.

This segment is still waiting for a some fresh perspective to take charge, because the new owners have some big plans for the Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group precisely in the business of the production of railway wagons, but also in a military sense.

Adam Sotek, the CEO of CE Industries, owned by one of the partners in DD Acquisition, had a recent interview with the Slovakian business daily Hospodarske noviny, in which he pointed out that in 2023, the production of more than 800 wagons is planned within the group, while 264 were produced in 2021, and 580 in 2022.

The goal, on the other hand, is for the Croatian Djuro Djakovic Group to become the third largest wagon manufacturer in the entire EU. With small investments in the existing facilities, he says, 1,200 wagons can be produced annually.

Part of the production will take place in Serbia?

"Our vision is to have two separate factories with a total production of 2,500 wagons. That would make us third in Europe," said Sotek.

The Croatian Djuro Djakovic Groups's share in the wagon market back at the time the restructuring programme was approved was insignificant, standing somewhere between 3 and 4 percent, and the key players were Greenbrier Europe and Tetravagonka with around 30 percent share, and Transvagon with 10 percent share. It is a market with somewhat stronger growth, because the demand for rail transport is on a strong upward trajectory.

The new owners will direct the production of wagons with higher added value to Slavonski Brod, and due to costs, at least according to Sotek's interview, they aren't ruling out the possibility that part of the production will be done in neighbouring Serbia as well. The defense programme, which is also under Djuro Djakovic Special vehicles, has a weaker representation when it comes to the group's revenues, but the new owners have pointed out that changes are set to come in that segment as well.

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Ericsson Nikola Tesla Contracts Digital Transformation Jobs Worth Millions

January the 5th, 2022 - Ericsson Nikola Tesla has contracted work in the impressive amount of 2.4 million euros, carrying out jobs related to the much talked about digital transformation of multiple Croatian ministries.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, at the very beginning of this year, Ericsson Nikola Tesla signed new contracts with Croatian state and public institutions worth 2.4 million euros. These contracts, according to the press release of one of the largest Croatian technology companies of all, are aimed at digital transformation.

Throughout the rest of this year, Ericsson Nikola Tesla will work on the digital transformation of the Ministry of Culture and Media, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) and the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb.

For the Ministry of Culture and Media, which is headed by Nina Obuljen Korzinek, Ericsson Nikola Tesla will work on the development of the National Archival Information System, the purpose of which is to improve the management of documentary and archival material within the state administration and within other such public services, and to increase the availability and usability of information for all who require access to it.

On the other hand, as the aforementioned press release states, cooperation in the field of green border protection continues, as part of which new mobile systems for monitoring the green border will be delivered in the summer of 2023. This project will be realised in cooperation with the companies Securitas Hrvatska (Croatia) and Hidraulika promet (traffic).

When it comes to the work Ericsson Nikola Tesla will carry out for the ''Dr. Fran Mihaljevic'' Clinic for Infectious Diseases,  a contract was signed on the maintenance of their integrated hospital information system. The amounts of each individual contract haven't been specified, but with the total sum being as high as it is, it can be safely said that Ericsson Nikola Tesla is starting the year as it hopefully means to go on.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Croatian Company Protostar Labs Launches Innovative Product

January the 3rd, 2023 - The Croatian company Protostar Labs, a young company from Belisce, recently presented and delivered its high-tech product called the Protostar Vision Box to its client.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, the aforementioned is a solution that they have been developing for a year now, and which enables visual inspection of products on production lines. Its application, as explained by Filip Novoselnik, the co-founder and director of the Croatian company Protostar Labs, is extremely broad, but they're still primarily focused on industrial production in larger series.

The delivery of the Vision Box is just the beginning of the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision technology that they've been busy developing, which contributes to the automation of industrial production. It contributes because it enables the quick and early detection of any product defect. In addition, it gives the company that uses it an in depth insight into all sorts of data and statistics via the Protostar cloud platform, which enables the better organisation of the overall production process.

All of these advantages will soon be made available to more companies as the Croatian company Protostar Labs is working on the development of two more versions of the Vision Box. The smaller one, which consists only of a small computer with a camera, will be intended for wider application because it has all the characteristics of a surveillance camera, only this one will be smart. According to Novoselnik, the bigger one will be a more sophisticated version of the existing Vision Box.

Both new versions should be ready and on the market in three to six months, and with their launch, the founder of the Croatian company Protostar Labs expects to increase the company's general level of competitiveness and ensure access to demanding foreign markets.

What is particularly interesting about this young but promising company from Belisce, whose development office is located in Osijek, is that, in addition to solutions intended for the automation of the "terrestrial" industry, they also develop solutions for the one in space, something that hardly any company in Croatia can boast of.

Ultimately, the universe and its puzzles were the reason why the Croatian company Protostar Labs was founded. The idea, as recalled by Novoselnik, was born in the Anonymus Astronomical Society in Valpovo. "Back in 2019, the informal founding assembly of Protostar Labs was held there, and the name of the company was inspired by space and means 'a star in the making'. Our initial idea was to profile ourselves in the long term as a company that develops solutions for the space industry, but at the time it seemed an unlikely feat, so we decided to start with what was more attainable for us, which is the domestic industry, which really lacks high-tech solutions that facilitate, speed up, and ultimately optimise the production process. We started with the development of a system based on a combination of cameras and sensors and AI algorithms, the goal of which is visual inspection of products,'' stated Novoselnik.

Even though it seemed almost impossible just three years ago, the Croatian company Protostar Labs, which is still a small company that started its journey with only two employees, and today already has fifteen of them, is proof that with knowledge, persistence and creativity, anything is possible, even entering the space industry. They managed to do that last year when they passed the competition of the European Space Agency (ESA).

For ESU, as Novoselnik pointed out, they developed a software package that enables the faster and simpler development of solutions, i.e. models of AI and computer vision with the aim of their easier implementation on hardware devices with limited resources.

"Their application, on the one hand, is intended for satellite systems because satellites, which have limited capacity, process huge amounts of data that isn't very easy to send back home to Earth. Our solution should enable data processing to be transferred to a satellite and only data of interest should be sent back to Earth," he explained, adding that a prototype has been developed, but the solution is still in the early stages of development and still needs to be tested. They have already tested it out on drones, and the plan is to do the same on a stratospheric balloon at an altitude of 20 kilometres. ESA will decide whether or not to test it on a satellite, and if that doesn't happen, the system they developed will be used here on Earth.

"Our idea is to develop systems that have a dual application and that high technologies that are designed and made for space can also be applied in industry," Novoselnik pointed out. In addition to all of the above, the Croatian company Protostar Labs is in the running for another project for ESA, in cooperation with the Zagreb-based FER, with which they are developing a module for the characterisation of light pollution on Earth. "We applied for the competition and we're waiting for the results,'' Novoselnik said briefly.

This small but doggedly determinted company from Belisce therefore develops numerous projects, and last year it all began to bring in financial benefits, as their income grew by as much as 730 percent compared to 2020, to an impressive 2.71 million kuna. This is encouraging indeed for such a young company that is still, to a large extent, focused on investing in the technology they're developing, not to mention the fact that they mostly financed this development with their own funds and those from the EU.

Small companies developing here in Croatia unfortunately, according to Novoselnik, are forced to spend too much time trying to deal with formalities and bureaucracy, and this comes to the fore especially with EU projects.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Valpovo Company SpectreXR Impresses with Innovative OctoXR Tool

January the 3rd, 2023 - The Valpovo company SpectreXR is showing that Eastern Croatia, more specifically Slavonia, can be known for far more than agriculture and demographic issues. Augmented reality is their game, and they've been making waves.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, augmented reality (XR), which includes VR, AR and MR technologies, is most often associated with video games, but its application, as revealed by Ivan Rajkovic, the founder and director of the Valpovo company SpectreXR, is far wider. This company which was founded six years ago aims at the industrial application of virtual and augmented reality with its OctoXR tool.

It is a tool that they have been working on developing for a couple of years now and in which they have invested an enormous 350 thousand euros. In 2023, they also hope to monetise this highly sophisticated product, with the help of which the user's hands become a management tool in the digital world, as well as in the real world.

The fact that their hopes have a realistic basis has also been well and truly shown by the fact that the quality of their OctoXR, after its presentation at Expo AWE in Lisbon, was recognised by two large and important technology companies - the Swedish Crunchfish and the American Ultraleap. In short, The Valpovo company SpectreXR, which consists of a team of six people, decided to facilitate and improve hand control in XR, and the functionalities they develop through OctoXR make that entirely possible.

"Our product gives physical properties to hands in the digital world. The hardware is in charge of recognising the hands, through sensors or cameras, and the software we develop enables us to use our hands in the digital world as well as we would in the real world," explained Rajkovic, who added that developing such a tool is a very complex job indeed.

"In addition to a higher level of programming knowledge, you must understand physics, maths, linear algebra and work in digital 3D spaces. Every point of contact between the digital hand and the digital object needs to be properly simulated, the rotations made by the bones relative to the position of the real hand need to be exact, and much more. I'm extremely proud of the team that managed to do it, and with a lot of effort," he added. Moreover, the technology they're developing is heading in the direction the whole industry is going, which believes that realistic control with hands instead of controllers will become key in both virtual and augmented reality.

Rajkovic thinks that joysticks, or controllers, will remain important in the video game industry, but the Valpovo company SpectreXR isn't targeting that sector. Instead, they've got their eyes on industries such as healthcare, automotive, aerospace, space, and manufacturing. In them, XR technologies already play a very important role, and they'll come to play an even bigger role in the future.

As one example, Rajkovic singled out DHL, which uses virtual reality in its employee training. This very well known company uses it, as he explained, to teach employees how to store packages on planes and on other means of transportation, thereby reducing overall costs and increasing productivity. The advantages of virtual training are used not only by logistics companies, but also by the automotive, aerospace, military, healthcare, trade, and manufacturing industries. In addition, it's a form of technology that can be used for the creation of prototypes, the visualisation of objects that go into production, immersive communication, and the list goes on and on. While large companies are reaping the benefits, small ones are more or less yet to really start applying it.

The moment is therefore right for positioning such a tool on the market, and the Valpovo company SpectreXR has all the prerequisites for that – their very own OctoXR tool. The fact that they are very much on the right track was confirmed by their participation in the aforementioned AWE conference in Lisbon, which specialises in XR solutions. There, they agreed to cooperate with Crunchfish and Ultraleap and successfully integrated their software with their solutions. The aforementioned collaborations are important to this company for several reasons. In addition to finances, the team from Valpovo should see the doors of large clients opened, and it will also further ensure their recognition.

"We also see it as a path towards numerous manufacturers of XR equipment, considering the contacts of our associates. We have a developed business model and are well on our way to capitalising on these opportunities. We're absolutely counting on that from January onwards," Rajkovic said.

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